Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Oversight of the Judgment Fund.
Chairman Goodlatte: James Madison, in the Federalist Number 58, stated: “The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse — that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”
In its current form, the Judgment Fund, when abused, allows the Executive Branch to pilfer taxpayer dollars to fund its overgrown prerogatives without any congressional action or oversight. In such cases, Congress’s check on these abuses is rigorous oversight to determine whether additional legislation is required.
In recent years, however, it has become apparent that little information is known about individual payments from the Judgment Fund, particularly with regard to the payment of settlements. Searches for individual payments from the Judgment Fund in a database maintained by the Treasury Department reveals little about the underlying facts, how the funds were used, and even who received them. In a system of government in which Congress is accountable for the way in which the taxpayer dollars are spent, this is unacceptable.
I look forward to the witnesses’ testimony today, and to their recommendations regarding how Congress, the immediate representatives of the people, can improve our oversight of this “permanent, indefinite” appropriation as well as improve transparency for the public.